The first woman – ever – to chair a department at University of Illinois, she knew exactly what she wanted. She didn’t let her gender get in the way of doing things her way, during a time when gender dictated everything. That chair happened to be Chemistry, a synchronicity I found charming once I’d met her.

She was a career woman before her time, never settling down, having children or getting married. Until she met my Uncle in the 1980’s.

She adopted me as her own when I first met her. Peas in a pod, my mother called us, and rightly so. Every time I saw Ruth, she brought me a new present or bauble; the sort of things a kid likes. Even without bearing her own, she understood children.

Being a lonely kid, I loved her immediately. Whenever she was around for a visit, I’d clamor to see her, probably annoying my parents and everyone around me half-to-death.

When I couldn’t see her, instead I wrote her letters. Who knows what I’d blathered on about in those letters, but I wrote them diligently. She’d lovingly send me back another letter, each time I took crayon to paper.

As I got older and more independent, I’d fly out to visit her where she’d ended up: Sun City, Arizona. It’s a retirement community nicer than my own neighborhood, where old people zip around in golf carts and Live Life.

Remembering I loved Chinese food, immediately after picking me up in her car – one of those gigantic things that make you feel like you’re riding in the cockpit of a very comfortable living room – she took me to the local Chinese place, fussing over me and making sure that I had at least three different entrees in front of me at all times.

She’d gone to the baker and bought me a bourbon pecan pie, too, and even though I’d never had one before (they look, well, SCARY), it was delicious. Now that I have my own oven and a decently good recipe, I make the same pie each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The china and silver she gave me when I was 16 still sits in my china cabinet, waiting for a day when my children aren’t so small; a day when I can cook a meal that isn’t made of one of three food groups: pasta, chicken bits, and something else I can’t remember. Some day, we will eat off my finery.

And when we do, I will share with my babies the stories of their Great Great Aunt Ruth, who loved their Mommy very much. Who took life by the balls and made it her bitch during a time when women were supposed to be in the home, cooking and cleaning. A woman who never stopped; never took no for an answer, and followed her dreams and her heart where it took her.

A woman with a heart a million miles wide; who loved deeply and without regrets.

A woman who we all can learn from.

This is what I will tell my children as we eat Chinese food and bourbon pecan pie off the very finest china given to me by a woman who loved beyond words.


Two days after my son turned ten, on August 22nd, 2011, my great Aunt Ruth passed away. She had a full life; more than I can ever hope for, but that doesn’t stop the aching in my heart when I think about what the world is now missing.

I’ll miss you Aunt Ruth.




67 thoughts on “Ruth

  1. You were very blessed to have such a strong, loving person in your life like this, Becky. I’m sorry for your loss and may her memory live through you.

  2. So heartbroken for you. Beautifully written…now get out that finery and eat chicken nuggets on it. Life’s too short to wait for a reason to use your good dishes. ๐Ÿ™‚ ((hugs))

  3. Today would have been my Auntie Blanche’s 101st birthday. She died almost 3 years ago. She’s my Aunt Ruth and I miss the hell out of her. I’m so sorry for your loss. Hope you get some bourbon pecan pie today.

  4. Becky, I too want to encourage you to use that china, and use it tonight. Your aunt’s memories will be with you always, if a piece of china gets broken (and chances are it won’t) it is broken because you were exercising your memories of her and continuing to make her magic and shake the glitter that is your beautiful and fantastic great auntie all over your young and impressionable children.

    I bring out my grandmother’s delicate china and use it at my kids’ birthday dinners, even if their friends are going to use it too. You would (or maybe not?) be amazed at how careful a three year old visitor can be with something that they are trusted with (as long as they are not THAT kind of kid, you gotta know yer audience, eh?!) I have to confess, I have broken more of that china than the kids ever have (5:0 ratio, sigh). But in my defense, it was a bad packing job that did it in.

    xox thinking of you.


  5. So sorry AB for your loss. Everyone should have a Ruth in their lives.
    And I agree also – you get out that china and use it. Let your babies know how precious it is to you and that you are sharing it with them because you love them and you think they are special too.

  6. Tears AB, for my own Aunt Rita.. whose passing at the beginning of June still leaves me aching for her voice and her capacity to love and inspire…. if I may affer one thought though, use the china now… you never know what tomorrow brings…. hugzs.

  7. I think that you were extremely lucky to have a lady with such class in your life. It was those women who broke ground for the rest of us. I am so sorry for your loss.

  8. Becky, I’m so sorry. I think you should break out that china today, even if it’s just for you. I suspect your Aunt Ruth would like that a lot. Thinking of you.

  9. Oh, AB I am so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful role model and mentor for you. Thank you for sharing her wonderfulness with us.

  10. Just reading your beautiful words has me in tears. I am so sorry for your loss. Hold on to those memories. She sounded like she loved you a lot.

  11. I’m so sorry for your loss. If you come to Phoenix for a funeral I’d love to make my Pecan Pie for you and take you out for Chinese food if that sounds good to you. ๐Ÿ™‚ *hugs* My grandparents are out in Sun City too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. You are a lucky woman to have had her for so long, though I know that eases the pain of her loss none at all, it’s a thought that helped me when I lost my grandmother 2 years ago and I hope it will help you just a little today.

  13. I’m sorry for your loss. I, too, had a Great Aunt Ruth (really, truly her name) who was, oddly enough, also a chemist and remained childless her entire life and independent untill she met my uncle (Bus – we think that was short for Buster). She did NOT understand children and preferred to dress the girls up in all the ruffly, lacey finery she could find and then take us to get our pictures taken. She died a little over 3 years ago at the age of 91. She may not have understood children but she was still a hoot and I try to remember all of the craziness she represented in my life.

  14. I’m so sorry for your loss, Aunt Becky. Your words remind me of how I felt about my grandfather. He was such a sweet man and will be missed dearly by the whole family. I hope you remember the good times along with the bad, cause that’s what makes us human. I will be keeping you in my prayers. Sending prayers and good vibes your way.

  15. It is always sad to see the people we love leave this world. You are one of the lucky few to have so many fond memories of someone who sounds to be a very inspirational person. Prayers are with you during this difficult time!


  16. Oh, Aunt Becky,I am so sorry for your hurting heart. That was a lovely tribute to an amazing, wonderful woman. What beautiful memories you have. I think Aunt Ruth’s spirit lives on in you.

  17. Thanks so much for sharing this poignant lesson from the life of your Aunt Ruth. I’m sorry for your loss, but grateful that you had such a wonderful strong woman in your life. I’m sure that is why you are who you are today. Thanks for sharing such an intimate and vulnerable experience and lesson with us.

    Here’s to Aunt Ruth and her on-going legacy! *lifts a glass*

  18. I wish I could wrap my arms around you in a very huge hug. I am so sorry. My tears are for you, your family, and my Gonga. Maybe they’ll meet up cuz I know Gonga would want a piece of bourbon pecan pie.

  19. I’m sorry for your loss sweetie. Two weeks ago my favorite uncle died. And it sucks. Hugs your babies and be well. Love, Sue B

  20. you’ve made me miss aunt ruth, too. if that’s any indication, then your wicked storytelling will have them feeling loved by her too. hugs to you, aunt becky. xxxxx

  21. Sorry for your loss. She will live on in your heart, memories, and now this beautiful tribute.

    Also, if you do not already add chocolate chips to the bourbon pecan pie, do it. In KY we call it Derby pie.

  22. This is a fitting tribute to a woman who obviously played a huge part in making you the amazing person you are today. Thank you so much for sharing your memories of her with us! Sending prayers, love, and light to you and yours as you go through this difficult time.

  23. What a wonderful tribute to your aunt.

    While I have no words that will take away the pain, I offer the following in the hope that it will bring some small measure of comfort to you and yours as it has to my family.

    What is Dying, by Bishop Brent

    A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says โ€œShe is goneโ€. Gone Where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just the same now as when last I saw her. Her diminished size and total loss from my sight is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says she is gone there are others who are watching her come over their horizon and other voices take up a glad shout โ€œThere she comes!โ€ That is what dying is. A horizon and just the limit of our sight.

    Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further.

  24. I’m so sorry for your loss as well. Aunts can be very special people to us. I lost an Aunt almost 5 years ago. She was the biggest ray of sunshine and she is still missed. Many hugs for you and your family this week.

  25. girl pull out that finery and eat on it!! you should NOT wait for a time to enjoy it. and tell your kids the stories. i am very blessed that my most favorite great aunt is still alive although not kicking so much anymore. i am always sure to let the kids sit and visit and hear her stories. it is so important. she is so important. to me.

    pull out that china, get the family dressed up and have a fancy dinner of chicken bits right in your own dining room!

  26. Today is the 7th anniversary of my nanny passing. She was just like your aunt. Always inspiring. What a beautiful tribute you wrote to her. I’m so sorry for your loss and am sending you big hugs Aunt Becky. You’re the best!!!!!

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